Early Marriage  
Throughout the world, marriage is regarded as a moment of celebration and a milestone in adult life. Sadly, the practice of early marriage gives no such cause for celebration. All too often, the imposition of a marriage partner upon a child means that a girl or boy’s childhood is cut short and their fundamental rights are compromised.
While much of the impact remains hidden, it is absolutely clear that millions of children and young people – particularly girls – suffer negative consequences.
We look at the reasons for the perpetuation of early marriage, and its possible increase in populations under stress. A key factor is poverty, with the marriage of children often seen as a strategy for economic survival. In addition, it is perceived as a way to protect girls and to provide some stability in situations where societies are under extreme pressure.
We should examine the harmful impact of the practice. We see countless reports of complications and even death in pregnancy and childbirth of wives too young to safely bear children. We have seen child wives who should be in school or playing, working in near slave-like conditions in the homes of their in-laws. We should review education statistics revealing the large numbers of children, particularly girls, who drop out of school because of early marriage.
Finally, the effort offers positive guidelines to end the practice of early marriage. We must work to change attitudes in families and in societies at large, extend opportunities for childhood learning and education, offer appropriate support to families and children, and seek to have all children – girls and boys – recognized as valuable members of society rather than economic burdens.
Our intention is to raise awareness of the situation and, where necessary, to stimulate action. Where there is insufficient data on the practice and repercussions of early marriage, researchers and officials in both government and civil society are encouraged to initiate research in this area.
  Copyright@ 2009 India Women Welfare Foundation